PBS’ ‘Odd Squad’ Prepares for Toughest Mission Yet: A Cast Shake-Up

odd-squad-pbs-kids
Courtesy of PBS Kids

When a show has a name like “Odd Squad,” viewers might expect to see unusual creatures and gadgets that bend the laws of science – all part of a live-action program that follows a team of kids who solve problems related to math and geometry while battling strange menaces. In a few days, fans of the series will see something even more off kilter.

The series’ two main cast members, hard-bitten Agent Olive and fun-loving Agent Otto,  will not check in for duty when the PBS Kids program returns for a second season June 20. It’s an eyebrow-raising technique to put in play on a network whose crop of stars changes very little from year to year. In the world of kids’ TV, where animation is a favored format, “Odd Squad” producers feel the series shake-up will keep things interesting for viewers and writers alike.

“It’s a new way to breathe life and get the writers excited,” said Tim McKeon, who co-created the show with Adam Peltzman. The duo face an unusual challenge: Unlike PBS Kids regulars like Curious George and Arthur, their cast can quickly age out of their roles. “These kids are going to grow up, and we want ‘Odd Squad’ to be a kid-run organization, not a teenage-run organization,” McKeon added.

The farewell to Agents Otto and Olive – played by Filip Geljo and Dalila Bela – probably won’t be as seismic as when Steve Burns parted ways with Nick Jr.’s “Blue’s Clues” in 2002,  but it adds new twists to a program already filled with them. “Odd Squad” isn’t your typical kids’ series. Each episode is graced with little touches that reflect the likes of a generation accustomed to “snacking” its way through YouTube shows and Vine videos. In one first-season episode, Olive and Otto are turned into puppets. In another, innocent townspeople are suddenly decked in plaid or stripes. A third episode boasts a hard-to-forget ditty about an agent who loves potatoes.

“Every new agent is another entry point, and kind of dovetails with a feeling about the show we’ve always tried to get across, which is a wish-fulfillment piece,” said Peltzman. “Any kid can potentially be an Odd Squad agent.”

That element is key to the series’ rise at PBS Kids, said Lesli Rotenberg, senior vice president and general manger of children’s media and education at PBS. “It’s really gaining a lot of traction,” she said, and its live-action format and diverse cast allows kids to see themselves in the cases the agents solve, whereas an animated series might not always ring so true. “It doesn’t have one star. It’s about collaborating, and we know humor is evergreen,” she said in an interview. “It’s really in step with kids today.” PBS said the show has reached 10 million kids in the past year and was streamed more than 600 million times on digital platforms.

Viewers will get a chance to meet more new recruits. Oscar, the bespectacled gadget-maker (if Otto and Olive are James Bonds, then Oscar is Q) is set to leave the series after a few new episodes. In his place: Oona, a female expert on the tools of the trade.  Two new agents, Olympia and Otis,played, respectively, by Anna Cathcart and Isaac Kragten,will join the team. Ms. O, the temperamental spy chief played by Millie Davis (pictured, above), will remain on the show. Coincidentally, she was the youngest of the series’ original four principals.

The series’ ability to adapt to the entrance of new agents puts it in interesting company. “Doctor Who” continues to attract legions of fans even though its central character, an alien time-traveler known as The Doctor, has changed its form multiple times over the years. The story device allows the show to use new actors every few years, keeping audiences chatting.  If PBS Kids wants more live-action series, the idea may be one to keep in mind: The network typically makes a heavy first season order –“Odd Squad’s” first production cycle contained 40 episodes –  then spends up to two years releasing the episodes before approving a shorter second-season run. By the time a new season comes around, child actors may look significantly older than their last appearance in a role.

Fans should not despair. New favorites and old will meet on August 1st in “Odd Squad: The Movie,” which will show Olive and Otto teaming up with Olympia and Otis to tackle a new threat known as the Weird Team. Jack McBrayer, known for “30 Rock,” and Hannah Simone of “New Girl” will appear in the project.

The series’ penchant for the bizarre masks one of its primary backers. “Odd Squad” is produced by the Fred Rogers Company, the organization responsible for “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” one of the most calm and least frenzied programs in the history of television. Underneath all the weird antics, said Paul Siefken, the company’s vice president of broadcast and digital media, are educational exercises that reflect new ways kids are learning math. “Here are cases that need to be solved, and you use your partner’s’ help as well as other kids in the agency to get to the solution,” he said.

Just as the cast is set to evolve, so too could the “Odd Squad” format. If the co-creators had their way, they would love to open new “Odd Squads” to tackle other educational challenges, like animals or science. “We look at shows like ‘Law & Order’ and all the ‘CSI’s’ and “NCIS’s’ and all of the spin-offs,” said McKeon. “We would totally go for that.” If you think that sounds odd, you haven’t been watching the show

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  1. MUGIE says:

    I watched the show from the start, and now it is no good. I feel for the new kids but they do not have what the originals had. Olive and Otto and Oscar were ODD SQUAD. The new kids are no real replacements for the originals. As was said they either should have ended the show or changed it to reflect an older Odd Squad. My daughter hates and I mean hates the new group more then I do. My daughter turns to see other channels when the new shows air, but she leaves it on when they show the older ones. That is proof what an 8 year old who watched it from the begining thinks. I’m sad as well as it was one show we loved watching together. To the big wigs at PBS, Just because you can change something DOES NOT mean you should.

  2. Nancy says:

    I miss them terribly. They were the best, new show is so-so. I just fell in love with Olive and Otto and they will be missed so much. What are they doing now any new shows I should watch for? I’m 62 and yes loved both of them very much.

  3. Rebecca says:

    I love sitting with my daughter to watch Odd Squad! Loved Olive and Otto. They will be missed.

  4. Viewers of all ages love this show, not just 5-8.
    Reason: these kids are hilarious and talented!!!
    Otto and olive were awesome!!!!

  5. Harper says:

    Surely Odd Squad’s creators considered puberty when developing the show! Olive and Otto ARE Odd Squad, assisted wonderfully by Oscar. I think the Top Three should be given a spin-off as others have suggested – Teenage Odd Squad. (I can just imagine when they fight acne!) They can handle teens’ problems, then spin-off into their twenties! I tried watching the “new” show – can’t stand it! You’d better grab the Top Three before it’s too late!!!

  6. Sasha Steel says:

    Wow, I’m a bit late, but I did try looking for info on the cast change when it happened. I honestly don’t see why it had to happen so soon. Otto and Olive didn’t look that old in later episodes or the movie. Oscar on the other hand was obviously aging. In any case, I like the new agents, but I see that Ms. O has become less strict. I wonder why that is.

  7. Ms. OOO Squad says:

    No, sorry that is a bit rubbish! Otto, Olive and Oscar are mandatory! So, what if there is a teen Odd Squad? Who wouldn’t love that! Bring on the Teen Odd Squad we want OOO!

  8. iam he says:

    our young viewers could use some help in processing any sense of loss they are experienceing concerning the disappearancre of characters they know and love..

    Are they okay? are they safe? where are they? are they happy? will they see them again? a memory of saying good bye…. how about a promotion? and a big going away party for them…?

    I know you can do this….

    • Brian Steinberg says:

      Have you seen the recent “Odd Squad: The Movie”that appeared in August? It featured both casts – the new kids and the ones who have moved on…

  9. iam he says:

    To all those who are expressing concern about the replacement crew…. remember, this is not easy for them, the original crew were very good, and very loveable, a hard act to follow. I am sure these new kids will grow into the roles they are playing….. lets encourage them… and put aside our sense of loss… and support them as they try out their wings…. this is a good time to have realistic positive expectations..

  10. iam he says:

    As an adult, I have enjoyed the Odd Squad kids show and the quality of its characters and the show’s value to young viewers. I have seen the prgram as another great PBS production for kids.

    The transition of characters is a bit shocking, although I now understand why this must happen. As an adult I do feel sad about the disapeaance of familiar faces and characters, and miss the the original cast. How is the show going to deal with the sense of loss, I am sure many of the child viewers are experiencing? I do not have an answer. But, I know you need to do something…. remember please, kid’s sense of loss, requires counciling. Their sense of loss is much stronger for them than it is for us adults…

  11. Jenny says:

    They should do like BBC shows and just end it now and go into syndication. I don’t care for the new ppl. No chemistry. And my son doesn’t seem interested in them either. AND seeing as how most of the episodes we’ve recently viewed star the original cast, that may speak volumes as to the impact the new cast has. None.

  12. moviepitstop says:

    I like the new characters but, it won’t be the same

  13. Jack says:

    The obvious truth is this show is NOT nearly as good as it used to be with its original characters! Period! The original actors and characters carried the series. Period! But the cast getting older was inevitable. Best decision would have been to find a graceful way to end the series and go into syndication. The new characters are flat, flat, flat. My school aged kids hate it

  14. Vatinee Fuller says:

    My son loves watching Odd Squad. He started watching since he was 4, now he’s 5. We notice the change in the main characters. I understand the need for change. I will really miss seeing Olive, Otto and Oscar. They were the perfect assemble cast. I’m glad the doctor and Ms O are still there. I only watch a little of the new cast. I wish they would bring in more diverse group of young actors. We will continue to watch as long as the show is still good and interesting. I was really impressed at how well these kids can act.

  15. Marsha says:

    What I think happened was, Otto grew more quickly than what they expected and since Olive was his partner, they just thought it’d work better with the two newbies instead of just replacing Otto. Not at all do I agree with this decision! :( When Oscar and the doctor leave, the whole show will change too much, too soon! Why they weren’t just put in another department and given less leading roles, is beyond me! My husband thought it was a decision made soley on money and power. They don’t want the actors to have any power or contracts involved in their business relationship(s).

  16. Mir says:

    Our kids (12 yo, 9 yo, 6 yo and 3yo) quite enjoy the new Odd Squad members as well as the newly mellowed Miss O (as do I). They watch re-runs repeatedly. We did wish that we had been given more notice to build up to their loss…

  17. Natalie says:

    The two newest agents can’t act, Otto and olive fit better. We’ve stopped watching :( Oscar should come back too.

  18. Olivia Yarbrough says:

    Im 12 years old I’ve loved the show sinve it first came out I would loved it if you huyes have me a shot at being a villan I’ve been in plays like Pinocchio I was stribolie the wiz and fancey nacy I have experienced whith acting

  19. Hey guys I’m 8 years i like you show i watch it on tv and i’m was wondering if you could give me a part in your show

  20. rima featherstone says:

    We are watching the movie right now. Olive does not look any older than the new, and comparatively boring, new faces. Neither do Otto and Oscar. The new “Oscar girl” is too goony, Oscar is perfect for the role.

    We have also been watching the new season. The new kids are eh, and the show does not have the same cachet. The kids are not as interested. (Neither am I.)

    Who could ever replace Obfusco, who is perfectly bizzare and bizzarely perfect, but he does seem the oldest.

    Olive, Otto, and Oscar for at least another season!

  21. Serena says:

    I Love Olive And Otto I Am Gonna Miss Them 😭 They Are My Favorite Ones Of All And Oscar And Those Two Guys The Potato Lover And His Partner

  22. Iantha Newton says:

    This excellently wonderful show needs more black, Hispanic and asian actors and actresses that are very obviously of those ethnic groups. Caucasian ethnic group is oversubscribed here. Think about your young audience please. Some young kids only see their ethnic group displayed as criminals and idiots. P.sS. Sorry to see Otto and Olive go (both asre excellent actors/ and a real pleasure to watch) big mistake I think. Your temperamental odd squad leader is delightfully moody , pease keep her.

  23. The new kids are like watching “The Walking Dead” zombies. Show will never be the same. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

    • Natalie says:

      I’m a mom with three young kids 3yr old boy and two 1year old girls. And we all watched Odd squad. Now if I turn it on they all scatter. The new agents just don’t fit even miss O doesn’t seem impresed..lol, the new agents are so blah! To say the least. The producers of Odd squad really dropped the ball on this one. No more Odd Sqaud for us.

  24. T Hallo says:

    Bring back Olive and Otto!!! The new characters just don’t have the same great personalities…they’re kind of dull.

    • Neville Ross says:

      Did you not read the article, or are you dense? The actors can’t come back due to aging out of the roles. And different actors make for a better show to begin with.

      Plus, teenagers are kind of hard for young children to empathize with, so that makes Gejo and Bella staying in their roles not something that will work.

  25. For the Love of Books says:

    All these comments seem a bit harsh. New cast and episodes are better than some mainstream acting I see put out for adults.

    Olive, Otto and Oscar actors have amazing talent. Best of luck to them and the new cast. I noticed my son engaging with the mayh in one of the new episodes. Works for me!

  26. SadMama says:

    Kids felt super sad about the change in cast…. I wouldn’t say that the change necessarily keeps it “fresh.” My daughter also noticed that the new episodes are basically remakes of old episodes – pretty much shot by shot…. with the only change being the new cast members. *tricky* Anyway kids are excited about the movie but unfortunately are not as interested with the new cast.

  27. Allen says:

    Bring back Otto and Olive! The new format isn’t as interesting as before. The new main agents just don’t have the appeal as the old two. Where Olive and Otto naturally came off as fun and funky, Olympia came off as annoying and trying too hard. Otis just seemed plain boring. Sorry harsh words but just being a realistic viewer.

  28. jim says:

    Is this being released in theaters or is this a television only release. My girls love the show, this looks like a real treat for them.

  29. Victoria says:

    Is it just me or does the humor seem a little ‘trying too hard’ as well? Season one was one of my favorite shows to sit next to the girls and maybe even be late for work over. On the blurb above about run by kids not teeneagers; teenagers are kids not mutants. There is nothing wrong with growing and it would promote a realistic vibe, yes you change- body, mind, voice. Same here, our interest has diminished. I feel like PBS dumped them and lost us. They won that oscar because of the fabulous creative blend, bet they won’t be nominated again… No offense to the new kids, not their fault

  30. Allie says:

    Spin-off Please! The new agents are cute, but do not compare at all to the chemistry and talent of Olive and Otto. My kids are so disappointed and sad. I feel like we were just introduced to these quirky and lovable characters and now without any preparation they have been yanked from the show. Kids need a transition. How does the same network that still has some of the original Sesame Street characters make such a sudden change?

  31. flora says:

    On November when splash and bubbles premier are u guys gonna take of odd squad? Please don’t kids are gonna be disappointed and I will to. When are the new episode gonna come cuz there’s only 10 and they said there was gonna be 25 episodes

  32. Lizzie says:

    Adios Odd Squad! Without Olive and Otto our family just isn’t interested. Bummer because it was a great show!

  33. B. Swan says:

    My daycare kids are not as interested in Odd Squad since the main characters are gone. On August 1 we are going to watch the movie to see the old characters….we can’t wait!

  34. Meghann says:

    Just found this article. My daughter has not been as interested in watching the show and we had soooo many saved on our DVR. Turned them on today and now I know why. She misses the main cast… These new ones are just not he same. Hoping it will get better….but it really is not the same.

  35. Cindy says:

    Dear olive and Otto
    I can’t believe they took you out of the show 😞 We are very upset and the show is not the same anymore you can not even hear the main characters voices now. It’s just not the same. We have stopped watching. We will watch the movie. I wish pbs would have given you a special show to say good bye. Maybe then the new characters would have be accepted better.
    ❤️❤️❤️❤️

  36. Carolyn Brandenburg says:

    From Ryder just turned 4:
    Dear Olive and Otto, I miss you. I love you. 💙❤

    From Connor just turned 6:
    I hope you will come back to Odd Squad soon. 😹❤🐶

  37. Carolyn Brandenburg says:

    The original cast was adorable. They all could act as well. It makes no sense, keeping Ms. O and Oscar and ditching the rest. They could have kept them all. The original writers were better as well. They should have kept the original cast and added a new member here and there if needed. I like the original cast and writers.

  38. Carrow says:

    OMG my nieces are have NOT been happy with the change. Olive and Otto were their absolute favorites.

    The oldest is acting like a soap opera fan claiming that she doesn’t want to watch anymore.

    The kiddos are right those two little actors kids were excellent in their roles and talk about great comedic timing.They should’ve had a spin office with them solving odd cases for older kids.

  39. Nadia says:

    We absolutely love Otto and Olive. Please bring them back!

  40. Rachl says:

    I am disappointed in the cast switch. They were hilarious and their chemistry was perfect. My preteen children and younger ones alike are now tuning in to only watch older episodes online. Why make a switch after only one season??

    • Brian Steinberg says:

      Rachl – my understanding is that “one season” on PBS encompasses as much as 40 episodes which are then released over the course of two years or more. The kids have aged noticeably in that time, especially Otto and Oscar….to keep kids at the forefront of Odd Squad, apparently they had to recast

  41. G'ma & Trae says:

    Spin offs would be an excellent idea. Go for it. Then you can bring Otto and Olive back. We like them much better.

    • Selia says:

      U people can’t take a change. I think the new one is great. But I do miss the old agents. But everything has to change.

  42. kelly roberts says:

    My son and I were a big fan of Olive and Otto, I don’t think we will be watching the show anymore, such a terrible move. I agree with the woman who suggested a spin off for the older cast to move on to an older group of children.

    • Neville Ross says:

      @Kelly: A spin-off would be a stupid idea, especially since Otto (Filip Gejo) has already entered puberty, as has Olive (Dalia Bella) most likely. How would keeping on two-about to be teenagers on the show work (especially if Olive’s going to be wearing a training bra?)

      Why is it that people can’t accept change in things, and that actors might not want to play the same part forever? Especially younger ones who are (most likely) on the cusp of puberty?

  43. Victoria says:

    Not a fan of the new cast in Odd Squad. Olive and Otto had chemistry that came across the screen beautifully.

  44. Danielle says:

    Well, there goes the diversity!!!

  45. Frances says:

    It seems backwards that the two non-white leads were traded in for white leads. My non-white kids are non-interested.

    • TalkingMule says:

      What on earth are you talking about? Agent Olive is as white as white. The actor’s name is Dalila Bela.

  46. Dremer Zee says:

    Otto and Olive should of stayed in odd squad. In my opinion they should’ve changed Olaf and his partner but now the show doesn’t make sense and is awkward.

  47. Gaby's mom says:

    I’m glad that I found this article. Now my daughter, Gaby, can stop asking me what happened to Otto and Olive. They are dearly missed. So we (I have no choice in the matter) will tune in to watch the “reunion” on August 1st.
    I do understand the fact that Odd Squad is a kid-run organization but instead of doing a spin off about animal cases and whatnot; how about a teenage run odd squad that tackles bigger math issues?…Just a thought…If the formula works, why mess with it??? :)

  48. Roberto Carrillo says:

    We already miss Olive and Otto, you can argue whatever you want, but my baby girl is almost 3 years old and she preffers to watch the “old episodes” with Netflix.
    No hard feelings for Olympia and Otis, but the casting wasn’t good enough at this time.
    May we call Odd Squad for help?

  49. Fred G. Sanford says:

    Give the new characters a chance. It remains a good show, innocent in its own right and fun.

  50. Kat A says:

    What a huge disappointment that Odd Squad switched out the two lead characters. They were the only reason why we watched the show. They say its cause kids grow up and you want to keep the kids yet the worst character Miss O is still on there. the kids hate her character. And then Oscar is still on there with a very deep voice. If your changing it out because you want the kids to stay young then get rid of all of them or maybe the whole show. The kids don’t want to watch the show anymore. You just lost your 2 number one fans Odd Squad. Oh and when you replace the characters do a better job hiring new kids. They are terrible.

    • Neville Ross says:

      @Kat A: Oscar (Sean) left the show (he’s already entered puberty, and his voice dropped.) Most likely, the same thing happened to Otto (Filip Gejo) and Olive (Dalia Bella). Even if they were still young, the writers/producers made their choice, and it’s not going to change.

    • LizSustaita says:

      @KatA if you dont love the show then why dont u create a show sounds like ur an expert in everything 😡And the characters are great dont judge them bc of their charaters in the show not like if they are like that in real life.

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